Final suspect sentenced in 2021 murder of competitive ice skater

skater murder suspect sentenced
Joshua Anthony Soto had planned to study to become a pediatric nurse.

The third and final suspect was sentenced Thursday in connection to the 2021 killing of a talented 18-year-old figure skater, authorities said.

Joshua Anthony Soto, who dreamed of competing at the Winter Olympics, was fatally shot during an attempted robbery while watching television at a friend’s house in Harrowgate, prosecutors said.

“He was a pillar to his community,” his mother, Damaris Perez-Soto, said at a May 9 news conference organized by the District Attorney’s Office. “He loved his peers. He was a very humble young man. His passion for skating was out of this world.”

Earlier in the day, a judge sentenced 26-year-old Luis Castillo to spend 35 to 70 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, among other crimes.

The shooter, Joseph Cuevas, 26, received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole following a trial in March. Anthony Sherman, 20, who gave a statement to investigators and testified at Cuevas’s trial, was sentenced last month to 4 to 8 years in prison, court records show.

Sherman and Castillo recruited Cuevas to rob Zbigniew Still, who was selling marijuana and had previously shown them a pair of handguns, Assistant District Attorney Robert Wainwright said. Soto and Still were friends who had met in school.

On the afternoon of Nov. 6, 2021, only Cuevas had a gun when the three were welcomed into Still’s home on the 1800 block of E. Cornwall Street, according to prosecutors. Wainwright said Soto, who was not believed to have been involved in drug sales or use, was inside watching Netflix.

The trio asked to see Still’s firearms, and when he complied, Castillo turned the guns on Still, who lunged for the weapons, Wainwright said. Cuevas then pulled out his gun, shooting Soto and Still, who survived, the DA’s Office said.

Soto, with a gunshot wound to his chest, was able to escape the house, but he collapsed outside and succumbed to his injuries, according to authorities.

Prosecutors said Sherman, who was wearing an ankle monitor at the time, was apprehended soon after the killing, and investigators arrested Castillo days later. A getaway car registered to Cuevas was found torched two weeks after the murder in Northeast Philadelphia, the DA’s Office said.

Authorities took more time building a case against Cuevas, and he was charged in September 2022, nearly a year after the shooting. Detectives combed through his phone and found deleted online searches related to Soto’s murder, according to prosecutors.

Testimony from Sherman and Still, who also took the stand at Cuevas’s trial, proved key in solving the homicide case, Wainwright said.

“We forgave them. We don’t hate them. My personal feeling towards them is sorrow and disappointment,” Perez-Soto said. “All I’ve done is pray for them, pray for salvation, pray for a change of heart and that God’s will be done in their life.”

Soto, who lived in Juniata, attended Central High School and graduated from Agora Cyber Charter School, his family said. Perez-Soto told reporters he was preparing to go to West Chester University to study to become a pediatric nurse at the time of his death.

Relatives, at Thursday’s news conference, showed a video Soto made in August 2021 for a Netflix casting call related to a show about ice skating. In the clip, he recounts gliding across the ice for the first time on his 10th birthday and begging his parents to sign him up for lessons.

“I knew that many people who look like me don’t necessarily have the opportunity to go out and do a lot more with the sport,” Soto says in the video. “Honestly, I didn’t really care what the odds were or the outcome at the time. I just wanted to keep fueling my passion.”